Government proposals for tougher sentencing on rogue traders has been welcomed by TrustMark, the Government endorsed quality mark for reputable tradesmen.

Following the Sentencing Council's consultation on fraud, bribery and money laundering, a revised framework has been put forward that will affect trades who falsify registeration marks, commit fraud and in some instances even bribe the public.

"The Sentencing Council’s new proposals will hopefully act as a deterrent to those cowboys who give tens of thousands of great law-abiding tradesmen a bad name," explains Liz Male, chair of TrustMark. "These criminals put their victims at risk and rip them off. The new guidelines are tougher on those who commit multiple offences, especially when the victims are particularly vulnerable."

In addition to this TrustMark is also pushing for even tough penalties on rouge traders fraudulently winning work involving electricity, gas and other potentially fatal substances such as asbestos.

"Tougher, simpler, sentencing guidelines will help us get the message across to rogues that their activities are unacceptable and have no place in our industry," she continues. "Ripping off the vulnerable and putting safety at risk must be deterred and we believe the Sentencing Council’s guidelines go some way to help doing that."

To coincide with this news, TrustMark has introduced a new logo download system this month in an attempt to reduce the risk of fraudulent misrepresentation. Each of its 14,500 registered firms will now be required to use their personalised logo in all of their website and marketing activing, detailing the trades that they have been inspected and licensed for by TrustMark. 

"The new TrustMark logo will provide a more transparent environment of trust for consumers as they will now be able to immediately see if a TrustMark firm has been inspected and is licensed for a particular trade. And tradesmen will be able to give themselves a competitive edge by demonstrating to customers that their work has been inspected and they offer warranties." said Liz.

This year alone TrustMark has had to take action against almost 100 firms that have been found to be misusing its logo, and regularly liaises with Trading Standards and the police when rogue traders are found. It then details each succesful legal action taken on its "Fakes and Forgeries" webpage, in an attempt to warn other homeowners about which business names to avoid.

You can keep up to date with the developments at TrustMark by visiting their official website.

Via Installer Online

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Have you considered stepping into a brand new career and becoming a fully qualified tradesperson? Here at Access Academies we offer a full spectrum of trade courses including plumbing, gas, electricity, carpentry, tiling, plastering and painting & decorating. By training with us not only will you enjoy our state-of-the-art facilities and experienced tutors, but also gain exactly what you need for a long and prosperous career. To find out more please get in contact with our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

So you've got your qualifications and are ready to start your new life as a self-employed tradesperson. Being your own boss can mean great things like having full control over what jobs you do, what hours you work and when you can take your holidays - but there are some things you'll need to put some serious consideration toward. It's time for you to consider just how much you plan to charge for your services.

Many people will work it out from a simple calculation of hourly rate multiplied by 35 hour week multiplied by 52. However how do you come up with a reasonable hourly rate in the first place? Installer Online have come up with a list of 10 things you'll need to factor in to come up with the best price tag:

  1. Invoicing: Ask any self-employed person and they'll tell you this is a far more important part of the job than you might realise. Time spent invoicing or chasing up cash is definitely something to consider.
  2. Marketing: Word of mouth is only going to get you so far, you're going to need to come up with some sort of marketing plan. How extravagant you choose to be is entirely up to you, but either way it's going to cost money.
  3. Your skillset: So you've got the qualifications, but is that it? Will these need updating every so often? You might be alright as not many qualifications need regular top ups, but be sure to research this when starting up the business.
  4. Accounting & Tax: When you become self-employed you become responsible for paying your own tax. If book-keeping isn't your strong suit, have you thought about employing an accountant? This can prove quite costly, but there are also accounting services available which are tailored specifically to the contractor, freelancer and sole trader. They have low costs and simple online interfaces to allow you to process your own accounts. Many of these are available from a low monthly fee and not only save you time and money they can also relieve you of the stress of scribbling around to do your accounts at the last minute.
  5. Holidays: The downside of having the freedom to choose your own holidays is that you're no longer paid for that time. Including bank holidays most full time employees get around 6 weeks paid leave per year. This is the equivalent to a 12% increase in your hourly or daily rate.
  6. Insurance: Every business needs insurance. Not just that, but there's many different types you may need - public liability, business car insurance, contents insurances etc. Make sure you know exactly what you need and scout around for the best prices.
  7. Your toolkit: Again, these are going to cost money and inevitably need replacing somewhere down the line.
  8. Travel: Petrol costs are another thing you're going to have to keep in mind.
  9. Quotes: You will have to pitch and quote for work in order to generate new business. These take time and often a lot of effort and often you won’t get paid a penny unless you win the business. Although you can offset the cost of providing quotes by upping your hourly rate this will be one of the biggest areas that you will find you work on with no pay whatsoever.
  10. Premises: As your business grows, you may find that working in a spare room or out of your van simply doesn't cut it. Whether its for admin or storage purposes, any excess space you need may end up incurring additional costs.

So with those things in mind, does your initial estimate seem a little low? Installer Online advise raising it by around 30%, but you also need to be aware of just how much your customers are prepared to pay. But don't get discouraged! Although it's a lot to think about its true that tradespeople earn an impressive annual wage, and 70% of the self-employed workforce now earn over the national average of £26,093!

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Have you considered stepping into a brand new career and becoming a fully qualified tradesperson? Here at Access Academies we offer a full spectrum of trade courses including plumbing, gas, electricity, carpentry, tiling, plastering and painting & decorating. By training with us not only will you enjoy our state-of-the-art facilities and experienced tutors, but also gain exactly what you need for a long and prosperous career. To find out more please get in contact with our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

Via British Builder and Developer

Remember when a van was simply a place that got you from A to B? Well, new research published by Direct Line of Business has revealed that those days may be long gone, with tradespeople using their vehicles for all sorts of different purposes.

Plumbers, electricians, gas engineers and various other forms of tradesperson are practically living out of their vans now - if not using them for sleeping then as mobile officies or even entertainment centres. Unsurprisingly nearly half (45%) are using them as a dining room to eat meals while on the job, and a lower 31% using it as a mobile office to manage their business.

One in ten (14%) are also using their vans as a place to smoke, which can cause additional dangers to their health. Smoking in an enclosed area poses additional health risks, as research from the British Lung Foundation found the levels of toxins in a vehicale can be up to 23 times higher than in a smokey bar.

Perhaps the most fun statistic of the results was that one in ten are using it as somewhere to keep themselves entertained with video games. While most of these might be doing so with their mobile phones, some (2%) are even going as far as to install consoles such as X-Boxes and Playstation 3s. As many as one in 20 (4%) have televisions in their vehicles.

Melissa Hunt, Business Manager at Direct Line for Business, said: "With tradespeople working long hours on the job, it is no wonder they often end up eating, managing paperwork and even sleeping in their vehicles. However, customising their van with the latest gadgets and installing entertainment centres may not only be a distraction and compromise their safety but it is unlikely to be covered if stolen."

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Have you considered stepping into a brand new career and becoming a fully qualified tradesperson? Here at Access Academies we offer a full spectrum of trade courses including plumbing, gas, electricity, carpentry, tiling, plastering and painting & decorating. By training with us not only will you enjoy our state-of-the-art facilities and experienced tutors, but also gain exactly what you need for a long and prosperous career. To find out more please get in contact with our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

In an interesting attempt to make the life of a tradesman easier, Installer Online have come up with an interesting new iPhone app that may just lighten your toolkit somewhat and make sure you're never without some important tools.

The free app is named InstallerTOOLBOX and has been developed "provide a range of functions that will make every day - and every installation - that little bit more straightforward." It incoporates a number of things that are essential to your job and keeps them all within your phone, meaning they'll be in your pocket at all times!

Altogether the app includes:

  • A TORCH for when you need that extra bit of light dealing with pipes under the sink or rummaging around in boiler cupboards. It features three brightness settings to give you maximum visibility.
  • A quick, easy and above all accurate SPIRIT LEVEL that "measures down to 0.1° to ensure that it is more than just a gimmicky add-on". It can also switch between horizontal and vertical settings.
  • A UNIT CONVERTER that covers everything from temperature to velocity so that you don't have to make any rough calculations in your head or require a pocket conversion guide. All you need to do is enter the amount and choose what units you want it in.
  • Finally, every tradesman loses a pen once in a while so here you can do away with pen and paper for good with the JOB SHEET. With this you can make notes, jot down job specs, prepare invoices and more! It also allows you to build you a record of every project you complete, including photo attachments. These are saved to the app and can be emailed out to colleagues, customers and whoever else may need them.
Sound like your ideal piece of kit? As mentioned earlier InstallerTOOLBOX is a completely free iPhone (sorry Android users) app and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store now!

Last month not-for profit training charity JTL launched a new initiative aimed at encouraging more women into trade (particularly electric and plumbing) apprenticeships. Its launch was marked by a parliamentary reception and is back by a number of MPs, including Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.

Currently, women make up just 2% of apprentices in the construction sector, and around 1% of apprentices within the electrotechnical industry. To help try and raise these numbers, JTL have appointed 10 inaugural apprentice ambassadors (all of which are former JTL apprentices) - chosen for their personal success and passion when it comes to promoting apprenticeships. These people will then travel across England and Wales, speaking at schools and local events in an attempt to encourage more young women to sign up. The apprentice ambassadors will also act as mentors to any girl who signs up for a JTL apprenticeship, with the charity also hoping to appoint more ambassadors next year as the scheme grows.

JTL chairman Dr Ian Livsey said: “We wanted to bring the ambassadors to Westminster to highlight the issues which prevent women from entering these apprenticeships. We have helped more than 40,000 apprentices train over the last 24 years, but only a small percentage have been female. This has been because women don’t see building services as something that they can do. This perception is something we need to change. Hopefully, by hearing the stories from the ambassadors and by seeing that employers are willing to support female apprentices, more young women will want to take up apprenticeships in the electrical, plumbing and heating and ventilating sectors, and make that first step to a skilled career.”

Now in their 23rd year, JTL was originally established by the Electrical Contractors Association and Unite the Union to manage training in the electrical sector. The company works with more than 120 colleges/private training centres, to which they sub-contract the knowledge syllabus elements of the NVQ Diploma.

While good practical training may be the most vital quality to have in a plumber, it's important that they also have a good grasp of the common terminology they may come across while on the job. So Access Training have put together a very basic glossary of various plumbing terminology, which will hopefully be of benefit to some of you.

Actual capacity: The amount of water contained in a cistern or other container when it is full to its practical working level.

Air-lock: Air trapped in pipes, causing a reduction or complete stop in the flow of liquid.

Back-siphon: A condition where the flow of liquid is reversed and siphons back towards the source, which can lead to contamination.

Bar: The unit that water pressure is measured in.

Bleed valve: A valve that releases air from the central heating system.

Cistern: A contained used for holding water at atmospheric pressure.

Flow rate: The volume of water that is delivered to a tap, recorded in litres per minute (l/m) or litres per second (l/s).

Grey water: Waste water from domestic processes.

Hard water: Water which contains a higher level of calcium salts, making it an alkaline. When heated it deposits the salts on various components in a system, causing "furring up".

Main water valve: The main water shutoff that prevents any water from going into any of the pipes or plumbing. Plumbers may refer to it as the main shutoff valve.

Nominal capacity: The amount of water contained in a cistern or other container when it is full to the top edge.

Soft water: Rain water that falls on peaty, moorland and sandstone areas and is acidic. Soft water is better for washing, but can lead to many corrosion problems.

Stopcock: A hand operated on/off valve permitting water flow in one direction. The house stopcock is located where the supply enters the property, and can be used to shutoff water to all fixtures in the house.

Storage cistern: A specific type of cistern used for storing water to be used, such as delivering hot and cold water through pipework.

Supply pipe: A pipe that carries mains cold water around the home.

Tank: A container that is not open to atmosphere, usually a non-cylindrical closed vessel.

Vent pipe: Pipe that allows the release of air or water from a hot water system.

Of course this is only a very brief glossary, and missing many of the things you'll need to know as a professional plumber. If you would like to learn more and perhaps even gain the qualifications needed to become a plumber, an Access Training plumbing course could be exactly what you're looking for. To find out more please visit the courses section of our website or give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

New research conducted by Pink Plumbers, a national brand delivering female plumbers, has found that more women have the desire to become their own boss in the workplace then men.

The research, which was carried out last May, had a sample of 2000 adults from across the UK. It found that almost two out of three people (63%) wanted to take the steps toward self-employment. A total of 66% women wanted to be their own boss, narrowing out the males asked who came in at 60%.

Pink Plumbers was set up by single mother and entrepreneur Jo Lawrence, who created the franchise to make it easier for women wanting to join the plumbing trade by offering support and confidence. There is a clear gap in the market for female plumbers, with her research also noting that 86% of women think there should be more women working as plumbers. 69% of men also agreed.

Apart from setting up her Pink Plumbers franchise, Lawrence has also been proactive in organising a series of college roadshows across the UK, speaking to students about her own experiences as a plumber. She will also be publishing a book titled Hints and Tips for the Practical Plumber, which is due for release in September. It is designed to provide business and plumbing tips to help plumbers navigate through the difficulty of setting themselves up. 

Encouraging trainee plumbers to take the steps to become self-employed is also something we encourage here at Access Training. As well as providing you with vital qualifications through our range of bespoke plumbing courses, our teaching staff will also guide you on how to set up your own plumbing business. If you would like to find out more about what Access can offer you, please contact us on 0800 345 7492.

Via HVP Magazine

Gas Safe has proved time and time again to be an effective method in separating genuine gas engineers from cowboy traders, so that the general public know that when they hire a tradesman he or she is legitimate. But despite this, this sort of system is currently only available for gas engineers - so Joe Bloggs may not have the same level of certainty when hiring a plumber for wet work.

Until now that is. Or more precisely, October 8th 2013.

WaterSafe has been put together to provide a search facility of all Approved plimbers working in the UK, thanks to a partnership between UK water suppliers and the seven Approved Contractors' Schemes working across the UK. It will promote compliance with the Water Supply Regulations 1999 and Scottish Water Byelaws in order to protect the public and make it even more difficult for unqualified dishonest plumbers to get work. Unlike the Gas Safe register this isn't a legal requirement, but will publically show plumbers are both fully qualified and competent in their trade. So arguably its something that's probably in your best interest to do.

WaterSafe's website isn't open just yet, however it can be found at www.watersafe.org.uk where you can find all the relevant contact details to find out more about the scheme. Keep checking back to this blog, as we're sure to be covering more of this brilliant new scheme closer to its official launch.

In the meantime - if you have any outstanding plumbing qualifications or are looking to become a professional plumber yourself, have you considered a comprehensive plumbing course from Access Training? Our courses are suitable for both newcomers and experienced plumbers alike, so give us a call on 0800 345 7492 or check out the courses section of the site to find out more.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are currently consulting recently published plans to simplify the way self-employed people pay National Insurance Contributions.

It has been put forward whether it might be less hassle to collect contributions alongside Class 4 NICs and Income Tax through the Self-Assessment Process. This would mean self-employed people would only need to fill in an annual SA return to have these NICs collected. The aim is reduce the administrative burden on self-employed people, which is the main area many express difficulty in when taking the steps to become self-employed.

HRMC are also encouraging representatives of the self-employed to respond to the consultation before the final review. The closing date for this is the 9th October 2013. More information can be found on the HMRC website.

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The financial aspect of going self-employed with your trade can be offputting to many skilled tradesmen, but here at Access Training we make sure our students are fully prepared to take that next step in their career. As well as all the relevant qualifications in electric, gas, plumbing and various construction trades, help is on hand to give you the basic knowledge you'll need to handle the technical side of self-employed life. After that you'll be free to enjoy working flexible hours while being your own boss. For more information on our training courses and what is needed to become self employed contact us via email or telephone 0800 345 7492.